Passage du Grand Cerf, Paris


The Passage du Grand Cerf is said to have the tallest ceiling of all Paris’s arcades. It’s only partially glass, though, with classic designs in the moulding of the stone sections.

On the way in to the arcade is a stag’s head, displayed like a hunting trophy, no doubt placed there because of the arcade’s name, though there is no explanation of HOW this arcade acquired its name in the first place…(a hotel, also named the Grand Cerf, was demolished in 1825 to make way for this arcade, and I guess there may have been a similar stag’s head on the hotel walls).

Slightly less glamorous than some of the neighbouring arcades, it still has its own vintage style, with a series of arty individual shops running along its length– quirky jewellery, yarn, beauty, antiques, and the warm glow of its vintage lamps lighting up each shop front.

There’s also a tea room, estate agents, clothes shops, and interiors/home décor boutiques. The arcade was built in 1825 for Parisian high society to shop in style – almost two centuries later, it has managed to maintain a similar feel even today.

My favourite shop today

Lili Weasel’s yarn shop, with outlets on both sides of the arcade. Lots of home-spun, hand-dyed yarn and threads on display here. Not a knitter myself, but my partner definitely is…

My pick of the arcade’s past

Five people were killed in the Passage du Grand Cerf during 1827 riots, when soldiers opened fire on people celebrating an election victory. There were some 50 people killed by troops in all, with the UK press comparing the incident to the Peterloo Massacre of 1819.

There is the intriguing tale of an Austrian Prince von Hormetz, who committed suicide by an overdose of opium after a failed attempt to set up a betting shop in the Passage du Grand Cerf in 1889. A search for this Prince Hormetz gave no further references, although another Austrian Prince (Mayerling) caused much scandal with his own suicide in January of the same year. The story had this Prince as a member of the Uhlan Guards in the Austrian Army, but another search only came up with a royal aide-de-camp with a similar name, and no suicide announced. From a 21st century perspective it also seems unlikely that a Royal prince would set up a betting shop, though Bertie, Prince of Wales was well-known to enjoy a bet at around the same time. Was it actually just an ordinary Austrian guy who set himself up as Royalty? Or was this one of those journalistic make-up stories of the ‘sort of thing that might have happened’? that make it to the newspapers and are hard to fact-check: The Morning Post of 21 September 1889 published the story.

This arcade in films or books

The 1960 film Zazie dans le metro has scenes filmed in the Passage du Grand Cerf.

What’s your favourite shop in the arcade today?

What memories do you have of visits in years gone by?

Have you got any good stories to add on the past of this arcade?

Have you seen Passage du Grand Cerf in any other film or book?

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